Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Reed Gusciora and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to bar individuals from being excluded for jury service because of their gender identity or sexual orientation was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
“Jury service is one of the fundamental civic requirements of every citizen in this country,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “That means every eligible citizen should be qualified to serve free of discrimination.”
The bill (A-3676) would make it unlawful to disqualify an individual from jury service based on their gender identity or affectional or sexual orientation. In addition, any officer or other person responsible for the selection or summoning of jurors who excludes or fails to summon a person based on their gender identity or affectional or sexual orientation would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.
“This is New Jersey in 2016. Every law abiding citizen should be able to fulfill this civic duty without prejudice,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).
“Thirty years ago the Supreme Court ruled jurors couldn’t be dismissed based on race. Twenty years ago women were included in that category. Today we’re standing up for another group of citizens that has been historically marginalized,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
Under current law, it is unlawful to disqualify a citizen for service as a grand or petit juror based on race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, marital status or sex, and any officer or other person responsible for the selection or summoning of jurors who excludes or fails to summon any citizen on such a basis, who possesses all other qualifications prescribed by law, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Pursuant to this bill, a violation of this provision would be a crime of the fourth degree as well.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee chaired by McKeon.